The Valex photos


The company:

Valex was the Blackpool-based company of John Vale, a photographer from Poulton.
Vale made and sold photos of pop stars (mostly taken in Blackpool) but also travelled with musicians in different functions.
After John Vale passed away, Harry Feeney, a local rock-musician ("Rockin' Vicars") and car-dealer bought two boxes of photos and correspondence from John`s mother.


Timeline (
Green: I think these are the most likely dates for the photos):

Autumn 1962:
This is the date Chazz Avery put to the portrait photos.
He however sums them up with a batch of other photos (common theme: too much make-up) that are clearly from one, probably even two different sessions.
Appearance-wise the portraits could fit into October 1962, going by the "Ringo: Making of a moptop"-timeline.

2 December 1962:
The Beatles play in Petersborough and are taught the art of make-up. This story is related by Lewisohn (in "Chronology") as well as in the Beatles┬┤ own Anthology (page 77):
PAUL: "Ted Taylor first told us how use make-up. We were playing the Embassy Cinema at Peterborough late that year [...] He said, 'There's this pancake stuff [...] Take a little pad and rub it on; it gives you a tan. And put a black line around your eyes and lips.' "
GEORGE: "[...] We were in their dressing room and found their stage make-up called 'pancake'. [...] So we put it on and we looked like Outspan oranges. There were photos taken of us, and John is also wearing eye shadow and black eye-liner. Big orange faces and black eyes."

No photos from this day have yet appeared.

PAUL: "Right afterwards we were being photographed for a poster for Blackpool. They had been bootlegging posters (which meant we were obviously getting quite popular), and the poster company said we should do an official one. So they did four squares - one of us in each square. And you can see the black line around our. eyes. We never lived it down!"
Note that Paul says "right afterwards" (so on the same day?) and "for a poster for Blackpool" (so not IN Blackpool then).
The combination make-up / Blackpool / poster company / squares might hint at this being the session for our portrait photos.
Ringo`s hair looks rather short in the photos from 30 November 1962 and 4 December 1962 but not like in the portraits.
On the portraits it looks more like a early moptop, so post 25 March 1963.

8 January 1963:
A photo of the Beatles related to a TV performance shows them with heavy make-up.
This is wizz` suggestion for the portrait session but I think Ringo`s hair is too long here.

6 March 1963 or later:
This is John Winn`s theory regarding the portrait photos that he related in a email to me. He bases this on the appearances, thinking the hair matches. The Beatles seem to have had a haircut between 5 March and 8 March - probably in preparation of the Helen Shapiro tour. While I think Ringo`s hair is fairly short by 8 March it does still look too long for me to match the short fringe of the portrait session.

17 March 1963:
The Beatles play in Petersborough again (see below).

21 March 1963:
A photo session from this day (though the date is in dispute) features the Beatles again wearing heavy make-up.
This is clearly not the session we are researching here (Ringo┬┤s hair is much longer) and they didn`t play with Ted Taylor this time but it`s close enough in date to a Petersborough concert to make for another Petersborough/make-up-combination.
Maybe Paul mixed these two (or rather 4) events a bit. This would be a bit closer - date-wise - to a Blackpool event than the December story.

25 March 1963:
Ringo gets his first (short) moptop.

4 April 1963:
End of Moptop-timeline.
I think the portraits were taken after this, judging by Ringo`s fringe.

18 April 1963:
A photo of the Beatles shows them with heavy make-up, even though it looks like it could also have been applied to the photo rather than the boys themselves.
They do not appear as heavily made-up in other photos from this session.

3 July 1963:
According to Beatles Gear the probable date George borrowed a Maton guitar - the guitar seeen in the concert photos - he occasionally used it (photo evidences: 8 - 13 July 1963, 2 August 1963, 3 August 1963).
He probably returned it on 14 August 1963.

7 July 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (ABC Theatre) for the first time.
If the photos were taken in John Vale`s photo-studio (even though the background on the unretouched single portraits does not look exactly like a studio), can we assume that they were taken during a time the Beatles would have resided in Blackpool anyway? Or would the Beatles have travelled to Blackpool just for this purpose?
I think this and the following two Blackpool dates are likely contenders for the portrait session (and maybe - except for 21 July - for the concert photos as well).

UPDATE: John Winn related in a email to me that he also thinks that the photos were not taken in a photo studio (they wouldn`t need to retouch the backgrounds if they were). So the photos could have been taken anywhere really. Possibly that might even hint at the photos being taken anywhere BUT Blackpool, because if they would have been taken in Blackpool would John Vale not have tried to take the Beatles to his photo studio (that he indeed had) and take them there?

14 July 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (ABC Theatre)

21 July 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (Queen`s Theatre)

22 June 1963:
The Beatles sign a Valex postcard (V41).
If this date is correct, the portrait session must have taken place before it.

2 August 1963:

Letter of Brian Epstein to John Vale, described in the article it originally appeared with as "A 1963 letter from Brian Epstein, Beatles manager, cutting a deal regarding picture rights."

The letter itself only speaks of "revised Agreements". So they have been in contact before - and indeed - if the 22 June date of the autograph on a V41 postcard is correct at least the portraits-session predates this letter.

What is confusing here is that while Brian says he will see Vale on Sunday (so just two days later on 4 August 1963), he wants Vale to sign and return both copies of the agreements, so Brian can sign one himself and return it to Vale again.
Why not simply take the contract with him on Sunday and have it all signed then and there instead sending it forth and back and forth?
So I guess we can assume that said agreements were not in function on 4 August yet.

Unfortunatly we do not know the contents or subject of that "revised agreement".
It could be for a different percentage, extended copyrights, allowing for another run of prints to made - anything really.
Or - let`s use a bit of imagination here - it could refers to a new deal that would allow Vale to take concert photos of the Beatles the next time they would play in Blackpool, print and market them.

Reported to be part of the estate of Vale is a letter of "Epstein accepting a small percentage for the Beatles' copyright sales of Vale's pictures".
This might be a different letter than the one we see here.

4 August 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (Queen`s Theatre) and Brian meets with Vale, (according to his announcement in the 2 August letter).
The Valex photos show the stage floor to feature a zig-zag pattern. Chazz says they were taken at the ABC Theatre - Beatles Monthly also has a photo with that pattern claiming to be from the ABC Theatre.
So I assume despite the John-Vale-meeting of this day that the concert photos were not taken on this day (and signed contracts were still being exchanged anyway by post).

11 August 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (ABC Theatre)

Chazz dates V62 as either 7 July, 14 July or 11 August 1963.
He guesses it is 11 August 1963 because John uses his Rickenbacker, that he received back from Burns 29 July 1963.

This requires a short excursion:

Chazz says John exclusively used his Gibson Jumbo (for live work) during June and July. Photo evidences for this are: 14 June, 8-13 July, 19 July.
(He also used the Jumbo on 1 July for a EMI session - I have yet to determine when John was seen using the Rickenback for the last time before this)
This suggests that the Rickenbacker was broken / in maintanance for a while.

He is seen (going by Chazz` concert guide) with the Rickenbacker again on 2 August and 5 August, is back to using the Jumbo on 6-7 August, 8 August, uses both 19-24 August, the Jumbo on 25 August, the Rick on September 15 and stays with it (after the holiday) for the rest of the year.

Beatles Gear however mentions a later timeframe for Burns doing work on the guitar. John asks Chris Roberts in September to take care of this Rickenbacker (the pick-ups were not working anymore).
Chris Roberts picked up the guitar at NEMS during one of his weekly visits and later gives it to Jim Burns who takes ca. 2 weeks to repair it. Roberts then delievered it back to NEMS.
Burns carried out this work during the last two weeks in September while the Beatles were on holiday (which started on 16 September).
On 4 October 1963, one day after they returned, the guitar was in use again.

I have no idea where Chazz picked up "his" Burns-story (maybe from the first edition of Beatles Gear?) and tend to rely on (the revised edition on) Beatles Gear.
What can be determined (from the photos) is that the Rickenbacker was indeed not the tool of choice for quite a while, for whatever reason.

Despite the contradiction between Chazz and Babiuk, there is still a good chance that photos were taken on this day.
BZ also claims that they come from this date (but might have taken the date from Chazz).
John Winn wrote me in a email that he also thinks the photos were taken "most likely" on this day.

14 August 1963:
According to Beatles Gear the probable date George returned the Maton guitar (the one seen in the concert photos).

25 August 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (ABC Theatre)
The photo from this night seen in Beatles Monthly seems to show George with the Maton, so either this photo has been misdated or Beatles Gear is wrong.
However the Beatles wear dark suits here (and the silver ones on the Valex photos), so this date is out of question.

8 September 1963:
The Beatles play in Blackpool (ABC Theatre) for the last time in 1963.
However let`s assume the Maton has finally been returned by now.

5 October 1963:
The Beatles sign a another Valex postcard with portraits (V41).


Products:

Valex manifactured postcards and other print products (also memorabilia).
Their Beatles-postcards came in two editions: The M-series and the V-series.
Both often feature the same motives (this only seems to go for the portraits), even though there are slight differences in the layout.
In some cases there is even a difference in the layout within the same series, suggesting a reprint.
Which numbering system came first and why two different ones were used is not known.

While there are more Beatles-related Valex products let`s concentrate on two different photo sessions here.

NOTE: This collection is likely not complete - additions are welcome.
Proportions might be wrong - most of these are photos, not scans. I only corrected the skewing.
Photo sizes have been adjusted, many of them enlarged, however a few are also available in higher resolutions.

Studio portraits:

Set 1:


M317


V41 (autographed on 22 June 1963)

V41 (autographed on 5 October 1963)
Set 2:


M318 - a set of portraits from the same photo session


M318 - slightly different layout

V42

Photowise you have seen all portraits now - what follows are further configurations.

Single portraits:


M327 - same portrait as used in M317/V41


V72

V72 - slightly different layout with original background


V73 - same portrait as used in M317/V41 with original background


V74 - same portrait as used in M318/V42 with original background

V75 - same portrait as used in M317/V41 with original background
Combination of Set 1 & 2: same portraits as used in M317/V41 except for George (M318/V42)


M328

M328 with undated autographs

M328 with undated autographs


Framed portraits - came with a print of (probably) M328, to be cut into portraits & inserted.

"Show Souvenir" (inside page) - full page copy of M328


"Show Souvenir" (cover / enlarged excerpt) - same portraits as used in M328 in a different configuration (shadows removed and John lost some hair with them)


Poster - same portraits as used in M328 in yet another different configuration (shadows removed and John lost some hair with them)


V76 (tighter assembly than M328).

Framed version of V76 (not sure if this was originally sold this way).

Live photos
(no postcard published under more than one number seems):


M323 - John`s photo seems to be an excerpt from
V65

A slightly different layout without label - this might not be a Valex product


M324 (Ringo`s photo seems to be the same as in M323)


V62 - Note how the curtain behind John has been painted in.

No label - possibly not a Valex product but the original photo.


V65

V65 - different cropping & better quality


V66 (same as in M323 ?)

Ken Wood
- further vague guesses, thoughts, corrections and informations are welcome -
kenwood@weybridge.de